Living off the grid can be quite enjoyable and peaceful, being one with nature, and enjoying scenic views and fresh air is something to die for. But, despite all the beautiful trappings, there is one thing that is not enjoyable at all that is washing your clothes.
Cleaning clothes becomes a daunting task, it becomes too much work. Being off-grid doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have access to electricity. For those who can draw electricity from a solar system or generator, you’re in good shape as you can comfortably run a machine washer and dryer.
Fun fact, dryers use a lot of electricity; on the other hand, washing machines plenty of water. So, if you are short on both you’ll need a quick solution. In this post, we are going to show you some amazing options on how you can clean and dry your clothes without electricity while also saving on water.
To clean your laundry and dry them, you need these three essential things. Let’s briefly talk about each one of them and how you can get them off-grid:
Obviously, you’ll need water to wash clothes. If you have a well or septic tank, then you are good to go. The methods that we will discuss later on, will enable you to conserve water while still ensuring your clothes are neat and clean.
Just like in any laundry scenario, you’ll need a detergent to wash your clothes. The soap bubbles capture all the dirt, grease, and other dirt particles so that they can be easily washed away. When you are off-grid, you need to ensure that you use eco-friendly detergents that will have minimum impact on the environment especially if you’ll be dumping the soapy water out in the open.
Regardless of any method that you are going to use; when it comes to doing laundry there must be agitating of the clothes and water.
Agitation causes water bubbles to form, it’s these bubbles that remove all the dirt and grime from your clothes. There are different methods of agitation, so chose the one that works best for you.
Here are a few ways in which you can do off-grid laundry:
This is the most basic and least expensive way of washing clothes; all you need is just a bucket and scrub brush. This method is quite simple, all you need to do is filly your bucket with water till it’s 2/3 full, add laundry soap or detergent and thoroughly mix them before adding your clothes.
Ensure all your clothes are fully immersed by pushing them down with your hands, the amount of time taken to soak the clothes or how much scrubbing is done is dependent on how dirty they were in the first place.
As the clothes continue to soak, agitate them a bit mimicking the actions of an electric washing machine, fill another bucket with clean water for rinsing. I recommend to my readers to always squeeze rather than wring as it the best method when washing clothes.
The only drawback with handwashing is you’ll constantly have to bend over; this hunched position will be a bit hard on your back. To mitigate this, you can place your bucket on countertops or tables.
Another disadvantage is, you can get wet which isn’t quite ideal if the weather is gloomy or rainy.
There are two versions when it comes to the plunger, one is similar to a toilet plunger. Most people use a toilet plunger, a brand new one that costs around $3. The other version is the plunger option, specifically made for doing laundry.
The way the Plunger method works is by filling a bucket with water, add liquid soap or detergent to it and add your dirty clothes. Begin pushing down and pulling up the plunger, this action is quite similar to the agitation of a traditional electric washing machine.
One of the major benefits of this option is rather than bending you’ll stand up when it comes to agitating your clothes. Both the wand and plunger are lightweight and portable, the wand is mostly made of plastic with a shovel-like handle which means that there is little bending.
One benefit of the wand over the traditional plunger is it comes with holes in the cone which sucks and pushes water allowing for comprehensive cleaning action. Most people agitate their clothes for around 7-10 minutes, soak them overnight before rinsing them with clean water.
Traditionally washboards were made of wood and metal, but the more modern ones are made of silicone. With this method, rather than soaking all the dirty laundry with soap water; you apply soap or detergent directly onto the clothes or the dirtiest patches then you begin scrubbing.
Scrub up and down till the dirtiest spots disappear and you are satisfied that it is sufficiently clean. Here is a tip, if your clothes have dirty stains; you can soak them overnight removing all the dirtiest parts.
Manually powered washing machines
For those who want something a little bit more sophisticated that will make good use of all your efforts, then manual washing machines are the better options for you. Every machine is a little bit different.
With these manual machines be ready for a few cardio sessions as you’ll have to do more than 300 motions for your laundry to be clean. These machines spin your clothes plus water and laundry detergent. In simple terms, they work like a salad spinner.
A lot of people may see this as the best option, but sorry to burst your bubble; it’s not as they don’t do an excellent job compared to the standard washing machine. To make things easier, you can soak them overnight or a few hours aiding the cleaning process. The benefit of this option is there is no bending over.
After washing your clothes without electricity you’ll need to rinse them, rinsing can be done using the same method and technique as washing without adding detergents. If you are using a bucket or washboard, fill the basin with clean water and agitate them till they are clean.
As for the plunger method, refill a bucket/basin with clean water, plunge repeatedly till they are clean. The same goes for the manual washing machine, drain out the soapy water, and fill it with clean water; run it for 10 minutes.
Wringing clothes while off the grid
The next step after washing your clothes off the grid is wringing out the laundry, without wringing your clothes may take a while before they dry. The main goal is to get your clothes dry before it develops mildew.
Here are a few suggestions of wringing:
- Mop bucket- When I heard about this, I thought it’s ingenious; purchase a brand-new janitor’s bucket plus a mop press. The bucket can also be used to do the laundry cutting down on cost. You can use the mop press to squeeze out all the water from your laundry
- Hand-Wringing- This is pretty straightforward, after you’ve rinsed all your clothes, pick-up each cloth and squeeze them by twisting your hands till all the water has been removed.
- Bucket press- With this method, you’ll require three buckets, drill holes at the bottom of the bucket. When you are ready for wringing place your clothes into the bucket with multiple holes. Position the two buckets with multiple holes onto a bucket with a single hole. The bucket with no holes should be placed at the top, cover the lid, and sit on it; the weight exerted will force water out of your clothes.
Drying your laundry off-grid
Regardless of how well wringing is done, water will still drip out of your clothes. It’s always recommended that you dry your clothes outside as they dry faster. If the weather is good, your clothes will be dried between one hour or two.
- Clothe line- This is a method that has been used from time immemorial, tie a line between tower pillars, trees or posts, or whatever you have. Hang all your clothes over the line; for those hanging outdoors, it will be a good idea to use pins so that your clothes won’t be blown away.
- Drying rack- A drying rack is an excellent option as you can place them anywhere that’s there is space. It’s the best place to hang your laundry indoors as they don’t take up too much space. It’s also affordable making it cost-effective, you can get one for as little as $30. Prices depend on the size that you may want.
So, you see there are a lot of excellent options when it comes to washing and drying your clothes when you are off grid. Be ready to spend some bit of time compared to modern washing machines but look on the bright side you’ll be able to save water and electricity. So, it’s not all doom and gloom. Cheers!
My name is Eugene Thornhill. I'm an outdoor enthusiast who loves nothing more than being one with nature. I've lived in numerous outdoor homes and even constructed my own. Living off-grid is something I'm very familiar with, more so than living in the city. For many years I've dealt with the many problems of living off-grid. It's time to pass on my knowledge through Cabinguides.